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Ahmadi anger as Pakistan MPs drop scientist's name

University's physics department to be renamed as activists claim move reveals discrimination against minority reporter, Karachi reporter, Karachi

Updated: May 04, 2018 09:28 AM GMT
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Ahmadi anger as Pakistan MPs drop scientist's name

Nuclear physicist Abdus Salam, pictured here in 1987, was Pakistan's first Nobel laureate. (Photo from Wikimedia)

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Pakistani MPs have drawn flak for passing a resolution to drop the name of the country's first Nobel laureate, nuclear physicist Dr. Abdus Salam, from a top Islamabad university due to his Ahmadi faith.

The physics department of Quaid-e-Azam University was named after the greatest scientist ever produced by Pakistan, but will now be renamed.

The resolution to drop his name, tabled by Capt. Muhammad Safdar, a ruling party lawmaker and the son-in-law of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, was unanimously supported in the National Assembly on May 3 by legislators belonging to the government and opposition groups.

After being declared non-Muslims through a constitutional amendment in 1974, the Ahmadi minority has suffered severe persecution, according to rights groups.

On April 28, the Ahmadi community released an annual report detailing the systematic persecution that it has faced in Pakistan. 

The report said four Ahmadis were murdered in hate crimes and 77 were booked under discriminatory religious laws in 2017. The number killed since 1984 stands at 260, it added. 

The resolution by lawmakers drew an angry response from many Pakistanis on Twitter, where #DrAbdusSalam became a top trend. 

"Let us admit that a substantial population of Pakistan is bigoted when it comes to Ahmadis and we don't have leaders who have either the vision or courage to do what is right. They either back out from any progress made or openly endorse discrimination against Ahmadis," rights activist Jibran Nasir wrote. 

"Capt. Safdar isn't a rebel or a dissenter within the PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) party. Stop seeing his actions as an embarrassment for Nawaz Sharif. This isn't the first time he has played on anti-Ahmadi sentiments and he is doing it with party support to reach out to voters in Punjab. It is power over principles."

Shazia Ata Marri, a female lawmaker from the opposition Pakistan People's Party, said that "although I was not in the House when this happened, I'm truly ashamed."

Another female lawmaker apologized for being part of the resolution.

"Today I made a mistake unknowingly and unintentionally, wasn't aware of full context behind subject matter, ready to apologize on the floor," Saman Jafri tweeted.

"Here I apologize unconditionally for hurting the sentiments of people due to my action in ignorance of the factual position. During my five years as a parliamentarian, I have always upheld my values and have been a loud and sometimes the only voice against extremism, oppression and injustice committed against minorities."

Punjab-born Salam, who died in 1996 aged 70, shared the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physics for his contribution to the electroweak unification theory.

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